food styling

Spiced Christmas Buns with Cranberry and White Chocolate

In the words of Jez (Peep Show reference, sorry if you don’t watch it), ‘I am a Christmassist’. I love everything associated this time of year; heady spices, mulled anything, twinkling lights, the smell of fir, infinite chocolate, roll necks and nostalgic films. With that in mind, I’ve got lots of festive recipes lined up for December, kicking off with these spiced buns, packed full of orange-soaked fruit and white chocolate- delicious warm from the oven with a strong coffee.

Ingredients

For the dough

  • 75g butter, plus extra for greasing
  • 220ml milk
  • 50g caster sugar
  • 1tsp sea salt
  • 500g strong white bread flour
  • 2 sachets fast action dried yeast (14g)
  • 2 eggs (1 for the dough and 1 for glazing)

For the filling

  • 75g dried cranberries, roughly chopped
  • 50g sultanas, roughly chopped
  • Zest and juice 2 oranges
  • 125g butter, softened
  • 125g dark brown soft sugar
  • 1tsp ground cinnamon
  • 1tsp ground ginger
  • 1/2 tsp mixed spice
  • 100g white chocolate, roughly chopped

For the topping

  • The reserved orange juice, plus 3tbsp caster sugar
  • A few extra cranberries, roughly chopped (optional)
  • 75g white chocolate, melted (optional)

Method

  1. Start off by making the dough. Put the butter and milk into a saucepan and very gently heat until the butter melts, then set aside until lukewarm. Stir together the sugar, salt, yeast and flour in a large bowl (or bowl of a stand mixer with dough hook attached) then make a well and add in the lukewarm milk/butter and one of the eggs. Mix the wet ingredients into the dry, first using a wooden spoon to bring everything together, then using your hands to form a soft dough (alternatively, do this by setting your dough hook to a low speed).
  2. Once you have a soft dough, turn it out onto a very lightly floured surface and knead for about 10 minutes (or just keep the dough in your stand mixer bowl and increase the speed of your dough hook for 6-8 minutes) or until your dough is smooth, stretchy and elastic.
  3. Now tip the dough into an oiled bowl, cover with oiled cling film and leave to prove for about an hour and a half, or until doubled in size.
  4. For the bun filling, place the cranberries, sultanas, orange zest and orange juice in a bowl and leave to soak for half an hour. Meanwhile, beat together the butter, sugar, cinnamon, ginger and mixed spice until smooth. Grease a high sided 20x30cm rectangular tin or 25x25cm square tin and line with greaseproof paper.
  5. Once the dough has proved, tip out onto a lightly floured surface and roll into a rectangle, about 5mm thick. Spread the cinnamon butter mixture across the surface of the rectangle in an even layer, ensuring that you go all the way to the edges. Now strain the orange juice away from the dried fruits into a saucepan (save this for later). Sprinkle the fruits over the cinnamon butter then lastly distribute the chopped white chocolate.
  6. Now, with the long side facing you, roll the rectangle up like a roulade. Slice into 12 even slices if you’re using a rectangular tin (about 2cm wide) or 9 even slices if you’re using a square (about 2.5cm wide). Arrange the pieces, swirl side up, in the prepared tin and cover with a piece of lightly oiled cling film. Leave to prove for 30-40 minutes or until well risen and springy (before this prove there will be little gaps between the buns, but they should be just touching when ready to bake). Preheat the oven to 180c.
  7. Once risen, whisk the remaining egg and brush all over the tops of the buns. Bake for 40-45 minutes or until golden and cooked through. Meanwhile, place the reserved orange juice and caster sugar in a saucepan and heat gently, until the sugar dissolves and the mixture is syrupy. When the buns are baked, brush the syrup all over the tops, then drizzle on the white chocolate and finish with chopped cranberries, if you like.

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Craquelin Choux Buns with Honeyed Walnuts, Mascarpone and Orange

A couple of months ago I bought, then promptly forgot about, some delicious pine honey which I intended to use as the central flavour in a pastry-based recipe. Now that it’s been retrieved from the depths of my cupboard it has well and truly fulfilled that destiny in these crisp craquelin choux buns. Simply filled with honeyed orange mascarpone and walnuts (also baked in the honey and a little salt) these make for a delicious treat, but served alongside honey butterscotch sauce and they’re next level- perfect for a fancy Autumnal dessert.

Ingredients

For the craquelin top

  • 55g unsalted butter, cubed, at room temperature
  • 65g soft light brown sugar
  • 65g plain flour

For the choux

  • 85g butter
  • 220ml water
  • 100g plain flour
  • 3 eggs (plus 1 extra for glazing)
  • pinch of salt

For the filling

  • 300g mascarpone
  • 200ml double cream
  • 2tbsp (heaped) good quality honey (I used Greek Pine Honey)
  • Zest of 2 oranges

For the honeyed walnuts

  • 100g walnuts
  • 2tbsp (heaped) good quality honey (as before)
  • good pinch salt

For the sauce (optional)

  • 75ml honey
  • Juice 1/2 orange
  • 25g butter
  • 100ml double cream
  • Generous pinch salt

Method

  1. Start off by making the craquelin topping (when baked, this forms a crispy sweet layer). To do this simply mix the butter, sugar and flour in a large bowl (or in the bowl of a stand mixer with paddle attachment on a slow speed) until it starts to form large lumps, then bring it together with your hands. Place the dough on a large piece of baking paper, top with another piece of baking paper, and roll out to about 3mm thick. Pop this onto a tray and leave in the freezer to solidify.
  2. To make the choux, put the water, butter and salt in a saucepan set over a medium heat (do not let it boil at this stage). Meanwhile, sieve the flour to remove any lumps. When the butter has melted into the water, increase the heat and bring to a rolling boil, then tip in the flour and stir vigorously until you have a smooth paste-like mix which comes away from the edges of the pan. Continue to stir for another minute to cook out the rawness of the flour, then tip into a clean bowl and close cover with cling film (this eggless stage is known as a ‘panade’). Leave to cool to room temperature.
  3. Preheat the oven to 190c. Line 2 large baking trays with greaseproof paper.
  4. Once the panade has cooled it’s time to add the eggs; whisk in a jug to break them up then very gradually add into the panade while beating with electric beaters. Stop adding the egg (you might have a little leftover) when the smooth, lump-free mixture reluctantly drops off the end of a spoon. Pile the choux mix into a piping bag, fitted with a large round nozzle.
  5. Pipe rounds of about 4cm wide onto the prepared baking trays, leaving plenty of room for expansion. Whisk the remaining egg in a bowl and brush a small amount onto each mound, smoothing down the tip. Take your craquelin sheet and stamp out 3cm circles. Place one on top of each choux mound (the egg will help secure it in place). Bake the choux for around 35 minutes, then skewer a small hole in each bun and return to the oven for a further 5 minutes, to dry out the middles. Once baked, they should be crisp and golden brown with a crackled appearance on top. Cool while you make the other elements.
  6. Toss the walnuts in the honey and salt and spread out on a baking tray. Cook for around 10 minutes or until caramelised then set aside to cool. Once cooled, roughly chop.
  7. For the filling, just whisk together the mascarpone, cream, honey and orange zest until light and smooth. Pile into a piping bag. Finally, for the sauce heat the honey and orange juice in a saucepan and simmer for a couple of minutes, add in the butter and stir until it’s melted, then add the cream and salt. Keep gently simmering, stirring occasionally, until slightly thicker (a few minutes should be fine), then set aside.
  8. To assemble the choux buns, slice each one in half and pipe some mascarpone cream into the base. Top with a sprinkling of walnuts and a little sauce, then place the lid on. Serve with some extra sauce.

Enjoy!

Blackberry, Hazelnut and Lavender Honey Celebration Cake

This cake, decorated with whimsical blooms from the Eloise bouquet by Bloom and Wild, is made up of four layers of moist hazelnut sponge soaked in lavender honey syrup, filled with a fresh blackberry compote and covered in delicately flavoured lavender mascarpone cream. The bouquet is inspired by a summer meadow, so it seemed only right to pick out some of my favourite ingredients the British countryside has to offer for this recipe; together the balance of nutty, floral and fruity flavours are delicious. Try this one out in August/September for a really special seasonal centre piece.

Ingredients

For the lavender honey syrup (this is used to soak the sponges and flavour the mascarpone icing)

  • 100ml runny honey
  • 75ml water
  • 4 sprigs fresh lavender or 1tbsp dried lavender

For the blackberry compote

  • 400g fresh blackberries
  • 3tbsp runny honey
  • Zest and juice 1 lemon

For the hazelnut sponges

  • 350g soft unsalted butter
  • 325g light brown soft sugar
  • 6 eggs
  • 200g ground hazelnuts (to make these just blitz 200g blanched hazelnuts in a food processor until fine)
  • 150g plain flour
  • 2tsp baking powder
  • Pinch salt

For the lavender mascarpone cream

  • 3-4tbsp of the lavender honey
  • 350ml double cream
  • 300ml mascarpone

To garnish (optional)

  • The Eloise bouquet by Bloom and Wild
  • Fresh blackberries
  • Crushed and toasted hazelnuts

Method

  1. Start by making the lavender honey (to give it time to develop in flavour). To do this just place the honey, water and lavender (whichever sort you’re using) in a saucepan and gently heat until the honey has dissolved into the water. Once this has happened, simmer for 2 minutes then set aside and leave to infuse until required
  2. Now make the blackberry compote by gently heating the blackberries, honey, lemon zest and juice in a saucepan. Stir occasionally, until the blackberries release their juices and reduce down to form a compote consistency. Set aside to cool.
  3. Preheat the oven to 180c. Grease and line two 8 inch cake tins.
  4. Place the softened butter and sugar in a large bowl (or bowl of a stand mixer) and beat until very light and fluffy (about 5 minutes). Add the eggs, one at a time, beating very well between each addition (add a tablespoon of the flour each time to prevent curdling). Once all the eggs are well incorporated, fold in the ground hazelnuts, remaining flour, baking powder and salt with a large metal spoon.
  5. Divide the mix between the prepared tins and level the tops. Bake for 35-40 minutes (or until well risen and a skewer comes out clean when inserted). Once baked, prick the surfaces of the cakes with a fork and spoon over 3-4tbsp of the lavender honey syrup, then leave to cool completely in the tins.
  6. While the cakes are cooling, make the lavender mascarpone cream. Put all the ingredients in a large bowl (or bowl of a stand mixer) and whisk until thick and spreadable. Scrape half the mixture into a piping bag. Now you’re ready to assemble the cake (providing all your elements are completely cool!).
  7. To put the cake together, slice the sponges in half horizontally (so you have four even layers). Place the first layer down on your chosen plate and pipe a thick ring of mascarpone cream around the edge, then fill the middle with one third of the blackberry compote and repeat this until you’ve stacked up all four layers. With the remaining mascarpone cream, cover the cake and smooth with a palette knife. Decorate with blooms from the Eloise bouquet or freestyle with hazelnuts, fresh blackberries and lavender.

Enjoy!

Gooseberry and Lemon Cake with Elderflower Mascarpone

Light, buttery sponge flavoured with lemon, tart pockets of soft, juicy gooseberries, and a generous swirl of elderflower mascarpone make up this simple summer cake and ode to the British countryside.

Ingredients

  • 225g butter, softened
  • 225g caster sugar
  • zest 2 lemons
  • 1tsp vanilla extract
  • 4 eggs
  • 225g self raising flour
  • 75g ground almonds
  • 1tsp baking powder
  • 250g gooseberries (blueberries, blackberries or raspberries would also work well)
  • 200g mascarpone
  • 3tbsp elderflower cordial
  • 1tbsp honey

Method

  1. Preheat the oven to 180c. Grease and line a 9 inch cake tin.
  2. Place the butter, sugar, lemon zest and vanilla in a large bowl (or bowl of a stand mixer with paddle attachment) and beat until very light, pale and fluffy. Add the eggs, one at a time, beating well between each addition. Add a little flour if you’re worried about curdling.
  3. Once all the eggs are well incorporated, fold in the flour, ground almonds and baking powder. Trim the tops and stalks of the gooseberries then fold them through the cake batter.
  4. Scrape the cake batter into the prepared tin and level off the top. Bake for 35-40 minutes or until the cake is springy and golden (or until a skewer comes out clean when inserted). Once baked, leave the cake to cool completely in the tin.
  5. Meanwhile, whisk together the mascarpone, elderflower and honey. When the cake is cool, swirl the mascarpone over the cake and decorate with fresh flowers.

Enjoy!

Ricotta, Raspberry and Peach Cheesecake Bars

With a light baked ricotta filling studded with fresh raspberries, crunchy almond-oat base and griddled peach topping, these cheesecake bars pay homage to 90s peach melba, and make for the perfect summer dessert.

Ingredients (makes 12 bars)

For the base

  • 150g digestives
  • 2tsp demerara sugar
  • 1tsp cinnamon
  • 50g rolled oats
  • 50g almonds
  • 140g unsalted butter, melted

For the filling

  • 500g ricotta
  • 125g golden caster sugar
  • 30g corn flour
  • 2 eggs, plus 1 egg yolk
  • 1tsp vanilla extract
  • 100g full fat greek yoghurt
  • 200g raspberries

For the topping

  • 2 peaches, sliced
  • few extra raspberries
  • decorative herbs, almonds, edible flowers (optional)

Method

  1. Preheat the oven to 160c and grease and line a 22x22cm baking tin. Place the digestives, demerara sugar and cinnamon in a food processor and blitz into crumbs. Add in the melted butter, almonds and oats and very briefly blitz again to combine- don’t over mix here, you want a nice crunchy base. Tip this mixture into the prepared tin and pack down with the back of a spoon. Chill for 15 minutes then bake for 10 minutes to set. Once baked set aside for later.
  2. Now make the filling. To do this simply whisk together the ricotta, golden caster sugar, corn flour and vanilla until very smooth, then add in the egg and egg yolk one at a time, whisking between each addition to bring the mixture together again. Lastly, whisk in the yoghurt. Roughly break up the raspberries with the back of a fork and tip them in. Ripple them through then scrape all the filling onto the base. Place the tin into another larger roasting tin and fill with water (about half way up the sides of your baking tin). Bake for 1 hour or until the cheesecake is set but still has a uniform wobble.
  3. Once baked, leave the cheesecake to cool completely then chill for 4-6 hours to set.
  4. While the cheesecake is chilling, lightly oil a griddle pan and slice the peaches into wedges. Heat the pan and char the slices on each side, then leave to cool.
  5. When your cheesecake has set, just remove it from the tin, slice into 12 bars (use a hot knife for this and you will get a cleaner result) and top with the griddled peach slices, extra raspberries and nuts.

Enjoy!

Orange, Parsnip and Ginger Cake

Don’t be put off by the inclusion of parsnips in this recipe; they’re deliciously sweet root vegetables which work in the same way as carrots when baked alongside nuts, sugar and spice. I’ve filled and topped this cake with refreshing ginger mascarpone which acts as the perfect contrast to the spiced walnut, parsnip and orange sponge.

Ingredients

For the cake:

  • 4 eggs
  • 200g caster sugar
  • 50g light brown soft sugar
  • 300ml sunflower oil
  • 225g plain flour
  • 2tsp baking powder
  • 1 1/2 tsp bicarbonate of soda
  • large pinch salt
  • 2tsp ground ginger
  • 1tsp cinnamon
  • 1/2 grated nutmeg (fresh)
  • 450g grated parsnip
  • 100g sultanas
  • zest 2 oranges
  • 175g chopped walnuts

For the ginger mascarpone:

  • 450g mascarpone
  • 3tbsp ginger syrup
  • 2-3tbsp icing sugar
  • 100ml double cream

For decoration:

  • 3 stem ginger balls, diced
  • 50g chopped and toasted walnuts
  • a little caramel sauce (optional)

Method

  1. Preheat the oven to 180c. Grease and line two 8 inch cake tins.
  2. Place the eggs, sugars and oil in a large bowl (or bowl of a stand mixer) and beat until pale and thick. Stir together the plain flour, baking powder, bicarbonate of soda, salt, ginger, cinnamon and nutmeg in another bowl then add to the egg mixture and beat briefly to throughly combine. Stir in the grated parsnip, sultanas, orange zest and walnuts.
  3. Split the cake batter evenly between the two prepared tins and level off. Bake for 45-55 minutes or until a skewer comes out clean when inserted. Once baked, leave the cakes to cool in the tins.
  4. While the cakes are cooling, make the ginger mascarpone. To do this simply whisk together all the ingredients until smooth.
  5. To assemble the cake spread a generous layer of ginger mascarpone over the first sponge, sandwich on the second then spread over the remaining mascarpone. Top with stem ginger pieces, chopped walnuts and caramel sauce, if you like.

Enjoy!

Carrot Cake with Pecan Brittle

This cake is a straight forward throw-it-all-in, mix, bake and frost situation (but tastes uh-mazing). The pecan brittle is optional but I think the nutty crunch and slightly bitter caramel really adds to the spiced sponge and tangy cream cheese frosting- definitely a winner!

carrot-cake-pecan1

Ingredients:

  • 225ml vegetable oil
  • 225g soft light brown sugar
  • 4 eggs
  • 250g grated carrot
  • 225g self raising flour
  • 1tsp bicarbonate of soda
  • 2tsp ginger
  • 2tsp cinnamon
  • pinch salt
  • 1/2tsp mixed spice
  • 75g chopped pecans
  • For the brittle: 100g caster sugar, 100g pecans, pinch salt
  • For the frosting: 80g butter, 250g full fat cream cheese, 400g icing sugar, zest 1 lemon

carrot-cake-3

Method:

  1. Preheat the oven to 180c. Grease and line a square brownie tray (about 22x22cm).
  2. Place the oil, sugar, eggs and grated carrot in a large mixing bowl and briefly whisk to combine. Now sift in the flour, bicarbonate of soda, ginger, cinnamon, salt and mixed spice and beat together with a wooden spoon until smooth. Fold in the pecans.
  3. Tip this mixture into the square tin and bake for 25-35 minutes until golden brown and a skewer comes out clean when inserted.
  4. While the cake is cooking, make the brittle. To do this simply place the pecans and sugar in a  heavy bottom pan and gently heat until the sugar melts (don’t stir but swirl the pan occasionally). Once the sugar has melted allow it to reach deep golden brown then pour onto a piece of greaseproof paper and allow to set hard and cool.
  5. Once your cake is cooked and cooling on a rack (in the tin), make the frosting. Beat the butter until smooth then add the cream cheese and whisk until combined. Gradually pour in the icing sugar and continue to whisk for a few minutes- you should achieve light smooth consistency. Stir in the lemon zest last.
  6. Turn the cake out of the tin once it’s cooled and level off if necessary. Spread a generous layer of the cream cheese frosting all over then break up the brittle and sprinkle on.
  7. Slice up and serve (and try to resist coming back for a second piece).

carrot-cake-2